By Katie Webb Arts & Entertainment Editor
Bit by the wanderlust bug at a young age, sophomore Jenn Smulo knew travel and photography were for her ever since a trip to Santa Cruise Island, California. On a National Geographic Noah Project, a field study to document the environment, Smulo picked up her first camera. The affinity for photographing far off locations appears in her Mexico City-centric work on display in FORM gallery February 3 – 7.
The series was taken last year in Mexico. The possibility of abandoning this snow-covered campus for a warm sojourn is teasingly thematic.
The photos seem almost familiar, an ease and comfort in their color. Luminous fuchsia bougainvillea flowers are strewn above wires on street posts leading surreptitiously down a worn cobblestone path. The path disappears at a bend, but it’s easily imaginable you keep walking.
Smulo’s pictures present a sweet, soft side of Mexico City that it is easy to forget exists.
“Don’t listen to the stigma, it’s beautiful there, the food is amazing and the people are so friendly,” said Smulo.
More than just a lust for travel, her work shows the people and culture she encountered with subtly. No intrusive close-ups of simpering faces appear. The shots are taken from a distance, she is immersed in the scene but not disturbing it.
Musing over pursuing documentary photography as a career, Smulo seems enchanted.
“Going somewhere, taking a series of photos, telling a story. That’s what I like,” said Smulo.
The way she takes photos, intimately seeing the Mexican culture and wanting to share her view of the place, is how she approaches another passion. A public relations major, Smulo simply wants ‘to help people.’ Her desire to showcase what she sees extends past pretty locations, starting with helping a family member.
After her grandfather got hurt and had to move to a retirement home, he was robbed of 300 dollars. The event became a catalyst for Smulo seeking awareness for those who cannot take care of themselves.
“It opened my eyes to how little help they [retirement home residents] get, I want to do something about it,” said Smulo.
Her passion extends further with her intent to aid those with special needs as well.
It seems an arduous task, marrying a moral code with a free-spirited need for artistic expression and adventure. Yet, a genuinely admirable feat Smulo has already begun in her Mexico City series.
“These are whimsical, you’re not suppose to stare at them for hours to discover a meaning,” said Smulo.
Apt, for it takes just a minute to see the humble anthropologist burgeoning from her work.